As a business owner, what gives you the most sleepless nights? The worry of losing a client, a customer leaving a scathing review, a new competitor? While all of these are valid concerns, there's something you need to be on the lookout for a little closer to home. Unhappy employees aren't just an HR headache; they decrease productivity, lower positivity and can drastically affect your company's bottom line. And worst of all, unhappiness is contagious. Instead of leaving this issue unchecked to slowly erode office morale, act fast and invest in employee engagement procedures. You'll see an increase in productivity, better work quality and retain top talent.
What Makes an Employee Unhappy?
Employees can become disillusioned and unhappy at work for several reasons, including feeling unsupported by the company or unfulfilled in their job. Sometimes, personal problems can also spill over into their professional lives. For example, poor health, financial worries and relationship breakdowns make it hard for people to focus on their work and remain diligent and enthusiastic.
Changes in the wider world can also cause significant disaffection, as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, with staff struggling to adapt to different ways of working and feeling less secure.
How to Tell If an Employee Is Unhappy?
Everybody has bad days, but how do you know when an employee has got more than a case of the Monday blues? While unearthing the root of the problem can sometimes prove difficult, the signs of unhappiness tend to be relatively easy to spot as people usually want to voice their displeasure. It's up to the company's leadership to listen and not dismiss genuine concerns as moaning.
Other indicators that staff may be feeling underappreciated, unfulfilled or undervalued include:
- Missing deadlines or doing an inadequate job
- Absenteeism and lateness
- Unwillingness to collaborate on team projects
- An increase in procrastination
- Taking an excessive amount of sick leave.
And when an employee is unhappy, productivity nosedives. After all, why would they see value in striving to meet goals and objectives when they feel no connection or loyalty to the company they work for? In fact, a statistic taken from Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report shows disengaged employees cost the UK up to £70 billion per year in lost productivity — evidence enough that it only takes one unhappy team member to break a business.
How Do You Engage an Unhappy Employee?
Unfortunately, as every situation is different, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to engaging a disgruntled staff member. However, adopting the points below as core company values can help prevent unhappiness from ever becoming an issue:
No one enjoys feeling like they aren't listened to, so address employee concerns early on and hear them out. Incorporate effective and efficient internal communication practices and use regular check ins as an opportunity to reconnect with your team and have open and honest conversations.
Nurture company culture
Company culture and employee engagement have a symbiotic relationship. If the culture is supportive and encouraging, fosters strong social connections and emphasises well-being, your business is less likely to suffer from burnout, waning morale and high turnover rates. This will also help you attract new talent to boot.
One proven way to improve employee engagement is to take an active interest in everything your team is working on and regularly show appreciation when someone goes above and beyond. These don't necessarily have to be grand acts of gratitude — sometimes, simply smiling and saying thank you can be enough to boost positivity. Using Clear Review’s performance management software enables your staff to set effective goals, give instant feedback and have meaningful conversations, providing you with the visibility needed to impact performance.
How Do You Protect Yourself from Disgruntled Employees?
While taking the precautions listed above is the best way to prevent a situation from arising in the first place, occasionally, a disgruntled employee you have had to let go of might feel wronged enough to make a move to jeopardise your company.
It's vital to try and remain professional and remind them your decision is not personal. Address the issue quickly and don't let it fester, as the longer you wait, the more challenging the problem will become to fix.
Employee engagement is the key to your company's success. Unhappy staff have the power to lower productivity and morale, damage client relationships and impede your business from reaching its goals. On the other hand, an engaged team that feels appreciated by leadership will show up to their jobs with a brighter outlook, put better effort into their work, and be more inclined to give back in a positive way.